The Western Pioneers basketball tea will find out tomorrow exactly what their Region 2 postseason assignment will be.
The Pioneers finished their regular season schedule on Monday evening at home by lighting up Murray St., 81-62.
Western closes the season going 14-4 down the stretch.
“We certainly could have chosen to play more JV teams during our non-conference schedule,” said head coach Rolando De La Barrera. “I really felt we would be better prepared for this time of the year if we went head up with tougher programs early.”
Arkansas Baptist, Conners St. and Northern Oklahoma Tonkawa are also in the Pioneers Region. Ark. Baptist, currently ranked 9th in the NJCAA top 25, is a likely opponent for the Pioneers in the first round.
“We won’t know for sure who it will be yet,” said De La Barrera. “If I were to guess, I believe we will finish third in our Region 2. Arkansas Baptist always comes in as the 11 seed by choice. They choose not to schedule all of the necessary conference opponents. Therefore, they come in as the 11 seed.”
This scenario puts the Pioneers on path to draw Arkansas Baptist as their first round opponent. Arkansas Baptist is 27-3 on the season. Steven Clark, a former OSU player dismissed from the Cowboys during his freshman season after several legal issues occurred forcing coach Travis Ford to dismiss the guard from the team.
“No matter who we play,” added De La Barrera. “We will be confident and ready. We are fully healthy and continue to work on our game-plans trying to keep things fresh.”
Last season, the Pioneers failed to make the post-season for the first time in De La Barrera’s 10 years at WOSC. The Pioneers were 14-14 a year ago. Following the season last year, Coach De La Barrera cleaned house. Only three returning Pioneers from a year ago are in uniform this season.
Their inability to finish games at the free throw line was that team’s undoing. The Pioneers held second half leads in all but a few of the 28 games last year. However, with a point guard shooting in the 45 to 48 percent range from the charity stripe, a coach is left little choice but to watch the games slip away gradually or pull his ball handler out of the game. That is a frustrating situation for any basketball coach.
“I really felt during last season that we didn’t have the kind of team that can play the style of basketball I like to play,” claimed De La Barrera. “We have always been known as the team with very athletic players who can get up and down the floor, run it often and put up some high scores. I looked at the team a year ago and we had size who didn’t produce and no one could hit the three for us. That is not a good combination to say the least.”
De La Barrera flushed most of that team and went back home to the Miami to Orlando areas where he grew up and called on some kids who like to make shots.
The Pioneers can light up the scoreboard in a hurry. With a shot percentage behind the arc edging up near 40 percent, Western cashes in on 11 made three-pointers per game. They have five or six guys that are comfortable taking the long shots.
De La Barrera added that one of the best things about coaching this team is that on any night they can be beaten by anyone and they are also capable of beating anyone. “Those kinds of teams are fun to coach.”
Good Luck in the post-season Pioneers. You guys are fun to watch.
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076